How I Prepare for Presentations

Flowers for presentations

I’ve always been an extremely loquacious person—eager to express exactly how I felt to my classmates and teachers and take up most of the verbal space at every dinner and family gathering (to everyone’s dismay, I’m sure!). Articulating my thoughts and feelings as come easy to me my entire life, but when I have to do so in a school, professional, or other serious capacity, my experience hasn’t often been so effortless. When I was in high school I had to take two full semesters of speech class—once between freshman and sophomore year and another as a junior or senior. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic kumu who I took both classes from, but I was an absolute failure at speech. My first speech assignment ever was to find a song I loved and recite the memorized lyrics to the class using common hand gestures and without a podium. I barely made it through the speech and ended up with a D (I was not the best at school)! However, one of the skills I gained during COVID when I started organizing around Prison Industrial Complex abolition was public speaking for presentations. A few people I previously organized with allowed me to speak on the bullhorn at our demonstrations and I had to facilitate and present on abolition to interested parties and even a church group a couple of times over Zoom. I exercised my public speaking muscle in a far less scary setting (online) over the past few years, which helped me to practice and prepare for my presentations today. I’m often hosting meetings and giving presentations to different groups in my current job, so preparing is one of my most utilized skills now.

Most of my presentations are online over Zoom or Teams (thankfully), so my holy grail preparation tactic is creating scripts with timestamps and slide numbers for each one. As I constantly improve my public speaking skills, I hope I won’t always rely on these scripts but for now, they’re my favorite tool! I create a bulleted list of sentences for each slide (that is, if I’m presenting a deck) with a timestamp so I know exactly when and where I’m supposed to be. I like to write out an entire script as if I were penning a blog post or an essay with as many details as possible. I’ll highlight or bold phrases or sentences that are most important for me to mention so as not to get lost while going off of the document. Each slide gets a full paragraph or two depending on how much information is featured, which helps me keep the slides high-level without too much word salad. I don’t go off of the scripts exactly as they’re written so I don’t make the meeting or presentation attendees feel like I’m reading off of cue cards to them, but having a crafted guide right in front of me makes me immensely calmer and prepared for each part of the deck. When I’m presenting in person, I go over my script and/or deck multiple times in the days leading up to the meeting until I feel confident (or at least as confident as one 26 year old teenage girl could be) that I’m ready to be perceived. I gave a presentation to an extremely important professional figure back in March and I practiced my slides so much that I didn’t skip a beat throughout the entirety of the meeting! I try to make sure I’m as ready as possible for any confusion, questions, or comments that might arise during and after my delivery, so understanding every tedious detail of what I’m sharing is crucial. Making my audience laugh at least once is one of my main goals so I feel like I’m truly connecting with them. Presentations and public speaking can be scary and difficult, so I’m always trying to improve my skills until I hopefully one day feel like I know as much as I say I do!